What is an Appeal?

An appeal is a review of the trial court's decision by another court. A party may appeal an unfavorable judgment and certain orders. Generally, the appeal must be based on an argument that a legal error was made by the trial court.

An appeal is not a retrial. You will not be permitted to introduce new evidence, and the appellate court - external link will not reassess conflicting evidence.

You may not appeal on behalf of a friend, a spouse, a child, or other relative (unless you are a legally appointed guardian).

The party who files the appeal is called the appellant. The opposing parties are the respondents.

Filing a Notice of Appeal

The first step in an appeal is filing the written Notice of Appeal. This notice tells the other parties in the case and the court that you are appealing a decision of the trial court.

The Notice of Appeal must be filed with the Appeals Unit before the filing deadline. For example, the Notice of Appeal in a felony case must be filed within 60 calendar days after sentencing [CRC 8.308]. To find the filing deadline for your case, see the California Rules of Court, Rules 8.1-8.1125 - external link.

The Notice of Appeal may be written on pleading paper or can be made by completing the form specific to your type of appeal. Below are links to the more commonly used forms.

Local Form Packets

Judicial Council Forms

Other forms can be found on the Judicial Council's Web site - external link.

There are other time limits and regulations in proceeding with an appeal. Read the California Rules of Court to verify that you are meeting the timelines for every step. Failure to meet deadlines may result in dismissal of your appeal.

Designation of Transcripts

Since the appellate court was not present at the trial or other proceedings, there must be an official record of the proceedings for the court to review in assessing the appeal. In criminal appeals, the court will prepare the standard record as specified in the California Rules of Court, unless the trial judge has granted a request for additional items.

In civil appeals, the appellant must tell the trial court what documents and oral proceedings, if any, to include in the record that will be sent to the appellate court. This is done by filing a Judicial Council Notice Designating the Record on Appeal (APP-003). The appellant's failure to file this notice may result in dismissal of the appeal. The respondent may also request documents by filing a Notice Designating the Record on Appeal; however, failure to do so will not affect the appeal.

Clerk's Transcript

The Clerk's Transcript is a compilation of the documents filed in the trial court. In criminal appeals, the Clerk's Transcript will include those documents required by the California Rules of Court. In civil appeals, you must designate each document you want included by its title and filing date. If the filing date is not known, the date the document was signed may be used instead.

The superior court clerk will send the parties a bill for the cost of preparing the Clerk's Transcript. The appellant is responsible for paying for the appellate court's copy as well as his own copy. The respondent may buy a copy of the transcript, but is not obligated to do so. Costs must be paid within 10 days or the appeal may be dismissed. (There is no charge for preparing the Clerk's Transcript in felony and death penalty appeals.)


A brief is a party's written description of the facts in the case, the relevant law, and the party's argument. The brief must clearly explain, using references to the Clerk's and Reporter's Transcripts, the claimed legal errors in the trial court proceedings. Each brief must contain a table of contents and a table of authorities. There is also a limit on brief length. The preparation and filing of briefs is governed by the California Rules of Court and Local Rules.

After the record is filed in the appellate court, you will receive a notice telling you when to file your brief. Read the notice carefully for directions on length and service. The appellant's failure to file an opening brief may result in dismissal of the appeal.


When the record is filed in the appellate court, you will receive notice of the time for oral argument. This hearing will be set far enough in advance to allow time to get all briefs filed. Contra Costa Superior Court's Appellate Division holds oral arguments on the 1st Friday of the month in the Presiding Appellate Judge's courtroom. The proceedings are open to the public.

You may appear at oral argument or give up your right to argue your case at a hearing. If you give up the right, you should contact the appellate court's clerk in writing and tell the court you are submitting the appeal on the briefs and the record. If you attend the hearing, you cannot present witnesses or evidence. The judges will have read your briefs and the record, so try to stress the important points rather than reading your brief to the court. After the hearing, you will be informed by mail of the decision.

Where to file your Appeal